For more than 36 years Sunset Air has been a leader in the HVAC industry in the South Puget Sound area. Sunset Air is a Residential & Commercial Contractor. We specialize in Energy Effiecient Building Solutions in Solar Energy, HVAC, Geo-Thermal & Windows.
Of all the various problems that can negatively impact your home, electrical problems are among the most dangerous. After all, an air conditioner malfunction can leave you feeling uncomfortable for a while, a plumbing problem can cause damage to a room or two, but an electrical problem can cause electrocution or even fire.
We don’t say this for the shock value, but rather to stress how important it is that you have a professional electrician check the wiring of your home at least once every few years. Otherwise, you’re increasing the risk that a problem will occur.
Maintenance will certainly help defend your home and electrical system from harm, but it’s important to be aware of signs of an electrical problem no matter what. This will help you know when to take action so you don’t run into any future problems.
Do You Have Flickering Lights?
No, your home probably isn’t haunted. At least, this isn’t likely the cause of flickering lights! This is almost always caused by a short circuit in the electrical system. If it’s just a single lamp, you might need to replace that fixture and nothing else. If it’s impacting an entire section of your home, however, then the short circuit is probably somewhere in the home and you have a bigger problem.
What if you find yourself facing this problem quite often? Well, we recommend that you call our pros ASAP, before the problem grows any worse.
Have you ever placed your hand on a light switch, or even a random spot on your wall, and noticed that it was warm? Hot spots often indicate points in your electrical system where current if lowing in a direction it shouldn’t be. Electrical current that is diverted to a point that it’s not supposed to go, such as another wire or directly into the drywall, throws off a lot of energy as heat.
This is what you’re feeling when you notice a hot spot in your home. Hot spots are an indication of a very serious reach in the electrical system, and it could possible cause a house fire. This is not a sign you ever want to ignore, so make sure you call for repairs as soon as you notice it. Do not, however, that dimmer switches operate differently than other wall switches, and are naturally warm to the touch anyway. But if it’s so hot you resist touching it, that’s absolutely a problem area.
Frequently Tripped Circuit Breakers
The circuit breaker panel is designed to protect your home from power surges. When a portion of your home’s electrical system suddenly starts to carry voltage beyond safety limits, the circuit breaker trips and that part of the system is shut down until the problem can be fixed.
More often than not, a circuit breaker will trip because that particular circuit was overloading. Unplugging a few things and switching outlets could do the trick. But if it keeps happening, you have a bigger problem on your hands, and it’d be best if you called in a pro.
Summer is almost officially here, and if the recent heat wave is any indication, we’re going to be using our air conditioners pretty regularly in the coming months. As such, you need your cooling system to perform as expected when it’s under extreme pressure. The last thing you need, after all, is a sudden breakdown and repair call just when the temperatures hit their peak.
The good news with this is that most cooling system problems give out signs and symptoms long before they force the system to shut down entirely. And while you should never attempt to formally diagnose or repair a malfunctioning air conditioner on your own (they contain dangerous components such as refrigerant that requires special training and licensing to manage safely), you can still spot the signs that you need AC repair. Here are five fairly common signs that you do:
1. Low Airflow
Conditioned air that’s not moving through your vents with the speed you can expect can be a big problem. It typically means that cold air is trapped somewhere within the system, which can cause the coils to freeze over and create even more issues.
Even if that doesn’t happen, the reduced airflow means your system has to work harder than it should in order to cool your home. First, check your air filter. If it is too clogged up and hasn’t been changed in the last couple months, this may be the cause. Otherwise, it’s likely time to give us a call.
2. Reduced Cooling Levels
Low refrigerant levels, overheating components, or damage to your ductwork can all reduce your air conditioner’s ability to cool the air in your living space. You can detect this simply by noting if the air coming out of your vents is warmer than you’d expect. It’s a problem for the same reason that low airflow is an issue—it forces your cooling system to work too hard!
This is the name of the process where an air conditioning system turns on and off numerous times without running very long. AC systems use more energy turning on and off than they do simply running. That said, you typically want yours to run at least 15 minutes at a time … otherwise it’s the sign of something seriously wrong.
4. Odd Sounds
A weird noise can be anything from humming or moaning to buzzing or clanging—pretty much, anything that doesn’t match the normal noises coming from your system as it runs. These sounds usually start and stop in time with the starting and stopping of the air conditioner.
5. Higher Than Average Energy Bills
Sometimes, an AC problem doesn’t show obvious trouble, but it can translate into excess energy being drained. If this is the case, you’ll probably notice the problem by spotting an unexpected increase in your monthly utility bills—especially if you haven’t run your AC system any more this year than you did this time last year.
There are several reasons you should care about improving your indoor air quality. For instance, the level of contaminants and potentially unhealthy particles circulating through your home’s air can be greater than what’s outside, due to tight, energy-efficient construction. But this is just one example. In this post, we’re going to talk about something you’re probably quite familiar with—excess humidity.
Humidity, in essence, is moisture—moisture in the air that makes us uncomfortable when there is too much of it. The only way to rid the air of humidity is to lower the temperature. So, we all turn on our air conditioners and set them to the lowest possible temperature, when in reality all this does is make your air conditioner work too hard, rather than helping to relieve humidity in a measurable way. Ultimately, this will put undue strain on your air conditioner and cause it to accumulate damage.
The Impact of High Humidity
What you’re facing here is excessive AC repairs and a shortened system lifespan as a result of too much humidity. In other words, you should care about improving your indoor air quality because apathy toward it will literally cost you.
So, what is considered high humidity then? If the relative humidity level in your home is above 50%, this is considered too high. Conversely, anything below 30% means the air is too dry—a wintertime issue that also has its problems. Anything above 50% though, is when most Puyallup residents notice discomfort in their living space.
The thing is, we stay cool by sweating and having that sweat evaporate off of our skin. So when the humidity level is too high, there is too much ambient moisture in the air to allow our bodies to sweat. Therefore, we stay hot and the sweat stays on our skin. Not only is the discomfort of sticky muggy weather a nuisance, but like we said above, it hurts your air conditioner, too.
“What Happens to My Air Conditioner?”
As we said, the best way to lower relative humidity is by lowering the temperature, which causes moisture to coalesce into droplets. This process means your AC system does serve as a dehumidifier, by default—but not at the level you need it too.
Air conditioning systems are not designed to control humidity. Yes, they do remove some excess moisture in the air just by operating, but it is not a significant amount, and you don’t have control over the precise amount of moisture that’s removed.
Consider a Dehumidifier Installation
A whole-house dehumidifier is the answer to this problem. Over the seasons, high humidity levels will shorten the lifespan of your cooling system. But a whole-house dehumidifier is designed to remove excessive moisture from your home, without negatively affecting your air conditioner.
In fact, a dehumidifier actually helps your air conditioner, since you won’t have to turn the thermostat down as low, and in effect, the air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to do its job.
It would be easy to say that modern homeowners live luxuriously. At least, when we’re speaking about our expectations of home comfort. The potential issue with this, however, is a luxury is often taken for granted.
Take the comfort offered to you by an air conditioner, for example. If one day your air conditioner just up and quit on you, you’d likely be surprised … and annoyed. The fact is, air conditioners aren’t just a luxury. They’re a necessity when temperatures reach their highest. And when you have any problem with yours, it should absolutely be a concern.
Do You Know the Signs of an Impending AC Problem?
Of course, we don’t want you to wait until your air conditioner completely shuts down on you for you to know something is wrong. We’d rather you learn to recognize the warning signs that problems are forming.
What sort of problems?
Well, there are a number. But today, we’re going to talk about one specific issue—refrigerant leaks. Keep reading to learn more!
Understanding the Refrigerant Process
In order to understand why refrigerant leaks are such bad news, you have to first understand how refrigerant functions. Your AC system doesn’t generate “coolness” in the way your heater generates heat (by combusting fuel or using electrical resistance).
When you feel cool air flowing through your vents, you’re feeling the absence of heat. It’s the refrigerant cycle that enables heat to be removed from the air.
The indoor unit of your AC houses the evaporator coil. This is where refrigerant, fittingly enough, evaporates in your system. As this occurs, it draws heat out of the air. This cooled air is redistributed throughout your home, while the warmed refrigerant is sent to the outdoor unit. In the condenser, refrigerant is condensed and releases its heat, which is dispersed outside with the aid of the fans of the outdoor unit.
The Problem with Low Refrigerant
So as you can imagine from what you learned above, low refrigerant seriously impedes the overall cooling capacity of your air conditioning system. Cooling systems are designed to work with a specific refrigerant level—called its charge. A low refrigerant charge is never a normal thing.
After all, refrigerant isn’t something that is consumed like a fuel, but rather recycled throughout the system over and over again in a closed loop. So, if your AC has a low refrigerant charge, it could mean it wasn’t properly installed to begin with (or there was a system problem upon installation). But it most likely means you have a leak.
In either case, you’ll need a professional to address the issue—fixing the leak and recharging the refrigerant as needed. Too little refrigerant puts too much strain on the system, reducing its energy efficiency and potentially causing ice to develop on the coil, which leads to further problems.
If you notice any irregularities with your system related to refrigerant or not, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.
We’re very fortunate in our area of the U.S. that we don’t typically need to worry too much about soaring temperatures making it unbearable to be in our homes without a functioning air conditioner. Still though, cooling systems are vital to our overall comfort in the summer months. If yours broke down last year, or was showing signs of wear, you may be considering the purchase of a new one this year.
If so, you have a number of considerations to make. First off, while you may find that simply upgrading to a newer version of your current model is all you need, in many cases it may actually serve you better to consider a whole different system type. For instance, just because you have a traditional central system in place now, doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from ductless cooling. Read on to learn more about your options.
Central air conditioning systems are still seen in many homes throughout our area, and for good reason. Today’s models are highly energy efficient, and are long lasting too. So long as they are professionally installed and routinely maintained, you can count on them to last a decade or even longer.
The limitation, or possible obstacle, with this installation is damaged ductwork. If there are any holes or tears in your ductwork, then conditioned air could be escaping from them. This means your air conditioner has no chance of working as efficiently as possible. That doesn’t mean outright that you should look into other cooling system options. But it does mean you should consider getting ductwork repairs if you plan on using a system that needs those air ducts.
A heat pump system is similar to a central air conditioner in setup and operation. In the summertime, like the central AC, it removes hot air from your home, and through a refrigerant process it brings cool air into your home, while expelling the hot air outside.
What makes a heat pump system different is its dual ability—it can provide effective cooling in the summer but also provide efficient heating in the winter. These types of systems are ideal for our climate, where winters are comparatively mild and summer temps can rise drastically compared to the rest of the year.
You might have heard that geothermal systems can only be installed during new home construction. This is only partly true. Yes, it’s typically more convenient to have a geothermal system installed during the time your home is being constructed or you’re going through a massive remodel of your home or yard. This is because installing a geothermal system involves burying loops beneath the ground, where they can utilize the steady temperature of the earth to cool and heat your home.
It’s not impossible, however, to retrofit an existing home with a geothermal system. The best way to find out what your options are is to ask!
Ductless systems operate on heat pump technology. That means like heat pumps, they provide heating and cooling. What makes them different, though, and as the name implies—they don’t require ductwork to operate. Rather, an outdoor unit is connected to up to four indoor air handlers, each installed in the various rooms or sections where you’d like them in your home.
The shift in the weather is here as we progress through spring and slowly but surely approach the heat of summer. This makes now the best time to arrange for your air conditioning system’s annual maintenance visit. There are a few basic jobs you can do on your own when it comes to maintaining your AC, such as regularly changing the air filter. But full maintenance that makes a difference in the overall performance of your system should be left to the pros.
Only a trained and experienced technician can handle the numerous tasks, like inspecting motors and electrical connections, as well as cleaning coils and moving parts, that go into professional maintenance and tune-ups. You can rely on our team to provide your AC system with top quality maintenance each year.
The Multiple Benefits of Maintenance
The most common question that homeowners ask about their AC maintenance is if it’s really necessary to do it every year. The answer is yes! Maintenance isn’t just some luxury service for air conditioners. Skipping it even just once makes it more likely for problems to occur and for your system to struggle.
There are a number of benefits to keeping up with annual AC maintenance appointments (which apply to heating maintenance, too). These include:
AC Reliability – The most immediate advantage of annual AC tune-ups is a cooling system that is less likely to suffer a major operational failure over the summer. Inspections locate places where wear on the system can lead to breakdowns, and adjustments and cleanings further remove potential issues. With a well-maintained air conditioner, you can enter the summer with the confidence that you probably won’t need to make any emergency repair calls this season.
Better Energy Efficiency – The accumulation of wear and tear on an air conditioner creates strain on its components—in particular, the blower motor. This creates higher energy bills as the system tries to overcome the extra stress. If an AC system has routine professional maintenance, it should be able to retain 95% of its efficiency rating during its service life.
AC System Longevity – Speaking of that service life, most air conditioners should reasonably last between 10 to 15 years before requiring a replacement. But this is only possible if the system has routine professional maintenance. Annual inspections and tune-ups will help an air conditioner give you the best return on your initial investment in it by lasting as long as possible.
Less Repair Needs – Who wants to spend extra money each year having their AC repaired? Approximately 85% of the repairs an air conditioner might need during its service life are preventable thanks to maintenance inspections that catch problems early—and this means huge savings in repair bills.
A Peace of Mind – Perhaps more valuable than money, maintenance gives you the peace of mind that your air conditioner will last all summer long and give you the best performance possible so you don’t need to worry about sudden, expensive repairs at the peak of summer.
There are a number of projects within your home that can be “do-it-yourself” (DIY) projects, but some typically require the assistance of a trained and experienced professional—such as electrical work.
Finding trustworthy and affordable electricians can be a challenge, but you want to ensure that you’re going with someone who not only has your home’s energy demands in mind, but your safety as well. Choosing a general handyman or an overenthusiastic neighbor might cost less upfront, but in the long run it could wind up costing you more in repairs. Additionally, you could find yourself facing injury and property damage.
Keep reading to learn some of our reasoning behind why it’s so important to only choose a professional electrician for whatever electrical service you need done.
Professionals Have the Right Training and Certifications
Working with electricity is not only complex, it could be dangerous as well. Being able to perform this type of work requires many hours of education and training to become a pro. Therefore, any electrician that you hire should have this specific training and licensing for your area.
Professionals Are Licensed and Insured
Speaking of licensing, any service provider who does work in or around your property should have the proper licensing to do so. If they don’t, then you as the homeowner can be held liable for any injuries or damage that occurs while they work on your property.
Professionals Are Up to Date on Building Codes
Specifically, we’re talking about the National Electric Code (NEC). This is also referred to in the electric field as the NEC or NFPA 70, and serves as an overview of the standards for safe electrical wiring and installation in the United States. These codes can be updated at any time, and your electrician should be fully up-to-date.
Professionals Have a Physical Address
Whether you’re hiring an individual electrician not affiliated with a certain company or going through an electrical contracting company, you should still hire a pro with a physical address. This speaks to a few factors about them—how reputable they are, and their knowledge of your community (specifically, the laws and building codes).
Professionals Have the Right Experience
Whether it’s an electrician or any other type of contractor, you should be sure to ask them how long they’ve been working in the field and what their experience is doing so. Classroom and apprenticeship learning are important of course, but hands-on training is absolutely essential for electricians.
Professionals Will Give You an Estimate
We mentioned this above—electrical work can be complex. Sometimes it can be costly, too. However, any good electrician should be willing and able to give you a written estimate of the proposed scope of work. This way, you won’t find yourself facing unexpected surprises later on.
Reputable Pros Have Good Reviews
What are previous customers saying about the electrician you’re about to hire? Knowing this will give you a good indication of how trustworthy and reliable they are, in addition to the type of work they’ve provided for customers in your community.
Spring is officially here! It’s time to turn off our heaters for the season and turn our attention to our air conditioners without giving it a second thought.
Well… not quite.
In these final days of cooler weather, neglecting your heater is actually the last thing you want to do. If you had maintenance done this past fall, you likely don’t have much to worry about. But even with maintenance, good old-fashioned wear and tear can wreak havoc on an aging heater, and just ignoring problems ‘til next year can leave you with a completely malfunctioning heater in the fall! So, what should you do?
Have Necessary Repairs Done
First off, you should have repairs done now if they’re needed. If your heating system shows any signs that it is having performance issues, don’t ignore them just because summer is approaching! After all, the problem might be caused by something like a malfunctioning thermostat or damaged ductwork—both of these being issues that will negatively impact your air conditioner this spring, too.
Of course, it order to schedule repairs, you would have to know or suspect that something is wrong in the first place. What signs can you watch out for?
Your heater is making strange sounds, such as groaning, whining, or even booming (this can be damaging to your heat exchanger and you’ll want to have it checked out right away, for your safety).
There’s low airflow or low heat coming through your vents, even though you keep turning the thermostat up.
Your heating bills are much higher than they were last year, even though you didn’t use it anymore this year than you did then.
Your gas-powered heater’s pilot light is burning yellow.
Your furnace is struggling to either stay on, or keeps running and won’t shut.
Change Your Air Filter
Did you know the air filter within your HVAC systems isn’t there to protect your indoor air quality? This is a common misconception, but it’s actually there to protect the system itself from dirt, dust, and other debris that can harm its performance.
Given that, your air filter needs to be changed (or cleaned) on a regular basis. It will depend on what type of filter you have and what the level of contaminants in your home is, but generally speaking your air filter should be changed every 1–3 months during periods of use. Since this air filter is used by both your heating and cooling systems, neglecting it can cause problems with both.
Schedule Heating Maintenance
“Wait, isn’t it too late for that?” you may be wondering.
It’s far more important that you have heating maintenance done on a routine, consistent basis than it is what time of the year you have it done. Sure, it’s convenient to schedule this service in the fall before you need the system the most. But if you skipped it this past year, there’s no time like the present to get it on your schedule!
Wouldn’t it be nice if your home’s furnace could work without fail year after year and never need any kind of professional service done on it? We wish this were the case for you, but really the only way of accomplishing this would be to buy a new heater every time your existing one had a problem—and well, that just doesn’t make much sense!
Honestly, even if you are diligent in caring for your furnace, you’ll eventually encounter some problem, even if it’s minor. And the best thing you can do for your furnace is learn to recognize the signs of a problem, so you can contact our team and get repairs on your schedule right away. One of the most common furnace repair calls we get is in regards to a furnace that’s blowing out cold air.
“What’s Happening with My Furnace?”
Sometimes what you’re describing as “cold” air could actually be low airflow, so that’s what we are going to focus on in this blog post. Though as a side note, we will say that if you have a heat pump instead of a furnace, it could really be cold air due to the system being switched to cooling mode.
Repairing airflow issues ASAP is a top priority, particularly if you’re using a gas-powered furnace. This is because whatever’s causing your gas furnace airflow issue could lead to potentially hazardous situations, like overheating or even carbon monoxide leaks. Given that, what causes this issue?
A Clogged Air Filter
The good news is, changing your air filter is an easy task. In fact, it’s one you should be doing on your own every 1–3 months. How often you change or clean your air filter depends on the type of air filter you have and the level of contaminants in your home.
Damaged or Obstructed Ductwork
Your furnace’s air ducts transfer conditioned air throughout your living space, and this portion of your system takes up half of the entire heater. If you’re suffering from ductwork leaks, the results can be detrimental—you’ll definitely notice low airflow, or what feels like lukewarm air, coming from your vents.
Improperly Sized Air Ducts
This somewhat goes along with the damaged or obstructed ducts—except this problem tends to occur when ductwork isn’t properly installed to begin with. The fact of the matter is, if your ductwork is too big or too small, your furnace or heat pump will experience efficiency problems that will end up costing you money.
A Broken Blower Fan
This is the component that enables heated air to actually move through your air ducts and into your home. If your blower has broken down, the air won’t have any momentum, and you’ll feel extremely low airflow, or what feels like air that’s not warm enough, coming through the vents.
Do You Have a Heat Pump?
The tips we shared above applied to furnaces, but heat pumps can have this problem too. As we alluded to above, heat pumps have two modes—heating and cooling. If your heat pump is blowing cold air, the first thing you should do is check to ensure its on heating mode. If it is, but you’re still having a problem, it could be that it is in its defrost cycle. One last possibility is a refrigerant leak—which is something that should be located and repaired ASAP.
One of the most common alternatives to ducted forced-air heating and cooling systems in modern homes is the ductless mini split system. Rather than operating through a network of air ducts connected to an indoor air handler and evaporator unit, ductless systems basically break up the indoor unit and blower fans—air handlers—and distribute conditioned air into the individual rooms of your home, independently of one another.
If you’ve ever been in a friend’s home and seen something up on the wall that sort of resembles a window AC, but doesn’t go back through the wall, what you’re looking at is part of a ductless system. Those wall hanging units are hooked up to a single outdoor cabinet, creating a central heat pump system, but without ducts.
The Ductless Difference
Going ductless is an excellent choice for many homes, especially those that have multiple rooms and/or are two-story buildings. There are not many downsides to having a ductless air conditioner and heating system—so long as it is properly installed. If you forgo professional installation, you could find yourself facing some unique problems with your ductless system.
We call these problems unique because they are not issues you’d face with a traditional central air conditioner or furnace—and we’re telling you this to demonstrate just how important a professional installation is. Here are some problems you can encounter with an improperly installed ductless system:
Water Leaks Behind the Air Handlers
Each wall-mounted air handler has a series of connections running through a hole behind it—a power line, a refrigerant line, and a condensate line. This last one removes water moisture from the cooling process so it does not enter your home. These lines can leak, and if this occurs, water starts to develop between the back of the air handler and the wall.
What eventually happens is the weakening of the wall material causes the air handler to rip away and fall off. This damages the wall, of course, but almost certainly breaks the air handler, too. If you already have a ductless system in place, and have notices any signs of water damage behind or around an air handler, be sure to call in the pros for repair.
Broken Air Handler
This is sort of a benefit of having a ductless system, in a way. We say that because if one single air handler breaks, due to something like a failed motor or some other problem, the rest of the air handlers throughout the house will still continue to run.
The only part of your home that loses cooling or heating is the one with the broken air handler. If one of your units stops working, you can certainly call our team for repairs. But we’d like to make this less likely to happen by installing it correctly to begin with, and following up that expert installation up with professional maintenance. Maintenance, by the way, no matter what type of HVAC system you have, is the only way you can ensure that your cooling or heating system lasts as long as possible and operates as well as it should for the years to come.